To bring things up to pace: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel follows Miriam “Midge” Maisel as she tries to become a successful stand-up comic in the early 1960s. Struggling with societal, cultural, social pressures, and stigmas- she uses her positively independent nature to fight back and climb her way to the top. In the second season, we watched as Midge truly started her career and now she is opening on a tour for Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain), an African American superstar.
Per usual, Maisel is explosive and exciting with its bounty of costumes, colors, and comedy skits. The cinematography by David Mullen (Jennifer’s Body, United States of Tara) combined with showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino’s (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads) scripts makes for phenomenal television. The visuals completely blow you away. Although nothing truly compares to the opening scene of season two, some scenes in the third season get pretty damn close.
However, perhaps the most engaging, yet disappointing, aspect of Maisel‘s third season is Midge’s conflict with the world around her. A white woman of rich privilege who is extremely beautiful (she is courted and receives flirtation by every man), Midge finally has to take care of herself.
From her manager Susie (Alex Borstein) representing Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch), who just so happens to be Midge’s sworn enemy, to her parents’ upheaval from their house, Midge is left stranded and needs to learn how to live. It does not go too well, two days without Susie are a mess in Vegas. This irresponsibility opens a lot of doors for Midge’s development in upcoming The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel seasons- assuming there will be more. Regrettably, in the first half of the season (episodes 1-4), we merely get a glimpse into it and nothing more.
To be fair, Sherman-Palladino tends to do this with her show. Any time there is any sort of turmoil or conflict, we see a quick peek and then take a U-turn back into comedy. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel cannot be labeled as a drama when there are only about eight minutes of it. Any and all hardship is deflected with Midge’s humor and/or the show’s strange events. Abe (Tony Shalhoub) ends up working with hypocritical young communists despite being a wealthy man who cannot live without his housemaid. When something could be powerful, like Shy Baldwin’s two managers: a white manager and his true manager, Reggie (Sterling K. Brown) who is black, the controversy gets pushed under the carpet after it shows itself for a few frames.
In the United States, and obviously the world, the 1960s were an incredible time with a lot of change from the anti-war protests to the Civil Rights movement. While we briefly touch on Che Guevara (the young communists proposing that they camp outside his home) and the Cold War, we never see any sort of chaos and strife in Maisel relating to the events of that time. This makes us see a world without racism, where blacks and whites are considered equal. However, that is easily disproved by the fact that Shy has two managers. So what’s up with the lack of controversy?
Regardless, the show is truly compelling and I highly recommend that everyone watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Although what Sherman-Palladino has is done is amazing, it could lose some pizazz in exchange for conflict and drama. Every character and cast member works perfectly with each other, despite the need for more ambition in the script. Perhaps there is controversy in the second half of the show, but it is unlikely based on the past two seasons. Sherman-Palladino rarely lets conflict take over the show, it lingers for a few minutes in one episode and disappears in the next. (Whatever happened to Benjamin?) Talk about Civil Rights, talk about female empowerment, and do not let these crucial conversations slip away. Tackle it head-on like Midge would.